The Samurai

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Overview

The Samurai, without doubt one of the late Shusaku Endo's finest works, seamlessly combines historical fact with novelist's imaginings. Set in the period preceding the Christian persecutions in Japan, The Samurai traces the steps of some of the first Japanese to set foot on European soil. Rokuemon Hasekura, a low-ranking warrior, is chosen as one of Japan's envoys to the Viceroy of Mexico and Pope Paul V. The emissaries set sail in 1613, accompanied by an ambitious Franciscan missionary who hopes to bargain ...
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Overview

The Samurai, without doubt one of the late Shusaku Endo's finest works, seamlessly combines historical fact with novelist's imaginings. Set in the period preceding the Christian persecutions in Japan, The Samurai traces the steps of some of the first Japanese to set foot on European soil. Rokuemon Hasekura, a low-ranking warrior, is chosen as one of Japan's envoys to the Viceroy of Mexico and Pope Paul V. The emissaries set sail in 1613, accompanied by an ambitious Franciscan missionary who hopes to bargain trading privileges with the West for the right to head his order in Japan. The arduous journey lasts four years, and the Japanese travel from Mexico to Rome, where they are persuaded that the success of their mission depends on their conversion willy-nilly to Christianity. In fact, the enterprise has been futile from the start and the mission returns to Japan where the political tides have shifted: the authorities are pursuing an isolationist policy and a ruthless stamping out of all Western influences. In the face of disillusionment and death, samurai Rokuemon's only support and solace come from the spiritual lord he is not even sure he believes in.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A historical novel of early contacts between East and West from one of Japan's greatest 20th-century writers. Apr.
Library Journal
In the 17th century, Hasekura and three other low-level samurai are sent to seek trade with Nueva Espaa (today's Mexico). Accompanied by Father Velasco, a Franciscan missionary and interpreter, they pursue their mission from Nueva Espaa to Spain. Along the way, they endure not only the hardships of the journey but Velasco's incessant proselytizing. The ambitious priest, who believes that their conversion will gain him the appointment as Bishop of Japan, convinces them that they will succeed only if they convert to Christianity, and reluctantly they agree. Failure, however, is their only reward. After years of wandering, they return to Japan, where they face shame and persecution. Basing his novel on the actual voyage of Hasekura, Endo (Deep River, LJ 2/15/95) masterfully evokes the struggle between the Western individual and the Eastern collective identity and in so doing plumbs the depths of honor, faith, and human endurance. The result is an expansive novel of astonishing power and insight. Strongly recommended for all collections.Paul Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.
From the Publisher

Set in the period preceding the Christian persecutions in Japan, The Samurai traces the steps of some of the first Japanese to set foot on European soil. Rokuemon Haskura, a low-ranking warrior, is chosen as one of Pope Paul V. The emissaries set sail in 1613, accompanied by an ambitious Franciscan missionary who hopes to bargain treading privileges with the West for the right to head his order in Japan. The arduous journey lasts four years, and the japanese travel from Mexico to Rome, where they are persuaded that the success of their mission depends on their conversion to Christianity. In fact, the enterprise has been futile from the start and the mission returns to Japan where the political tides have shifted: the authorities are pursuing an isolationist policy and a ruthless stamping out of all Western influences. In the face of disillusionment and death, as a samurai the spiritual lord he is not even sure he believes in. The historical context is precise and accurate for this thrilling and complex tale of intrigue.


In the 17th century, Hasekura and three other low-level samurai are sent to seek trade with Father Velasco, a Franciscan missionary and interpreter, they pursue their mission from Nueva Espana to Spain. Along the way, they endure not only the hardships of the journey but priest, who believes that their conversion will gain him the appointment as Bishop of Japan, convinces them that they will succeed only if they convert to Christianity, and reluctantly they agree. Failure, however, is their only reward. After years of wandering, they return to Japan, where they face shame and persecution. Basing his novel on the actual voyage of Hasekura, Endo (Deep River, LJ 2/15/95) masterfully evokes the struggle between the Western individual and the Eastern collective identity and in so doing plumbs the depths of honor, faith, and human endurance. The result is an expansive novel of astonishing power and insight. Strongly recommended for all collections.


A historical novel of early contacts between 20th-century writers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394727264
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/1/1984
  • Series: Aventura
  • Edition description: 1st Aventura ed
  • Pages: 272

Meet the Author

Shusaku Endo was born in Tokyo in 1923 and died in 1996. After his parents divorced, he and his mother converted to Catholicism—a faith which is central to many of his tales. He is widely regarded as Japan's leading writer and has won all his country's major literary prizes, including the Akutagawa, the Noma, the Shincho, and the Tanizaki.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Samurai by Shusaku Endo -- A Spiritual Journey

    This book rather blew me away -- and I don't say that too often. It makes me want to go and find a book about Marco Polo's travels.

    Endo, whose work I did not know before reading The Samurai, is an honored Japanese writer who recreates from scant historical records the spiritual journey of a entourage in the early 1600's as they travel from Japan to Nueva Espana to Spain to Rome and back to Japan, returning to a nation that has closed its doors to foreigners. The characters are skillfully sketched so that one can relate to each in turn, even when they are very unlike oneself -- and sometimes to several simultaneously. Their stories are painful, haunting, uplifting, and thought-provoking about what it means to live in a vast world, in a small community of family and place, and amidst rival claims for loyalty and faith.

    Especially memorable characters include Roku, the samurai; Yozo his servant; Velasco, the ambitious Franciscan missionary; Nishi, the young envoy; Tanaka, the envoy whose honor is sadly tested; and Matsuki, the envoy who defects from the journey. But there are so many others as well: Roku's silent wife Riki, his two sons, Velasco's family and his adversary Valente, other attendants of the envoys, Cardinal Borghese, and many others who have ways of appearing or disappearing, somewhat like the symbolic swans that migrate through Roku's native marshlands and haunt his dreams.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2002

    Great characters

    This was a wonderful book. I could identify with the different characters on their journey to understand that emaciated man on the cross---who people called 'Lord'.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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